Can agricultural subsidies reduce gendered productivity gaps? Panel data evidence from Zambia

November 15, 2019 - Hambulo Ngoma, Henry Machina, Auckland N. Kuteya

Ngoma, H., Machina, H., & Kuteya, A. N. (2019). Can agricultural subsidies reduce gendered productivity gaps? Panel data evidence from Zambia. Development Policy Review,  doi:10.1111/dpr.12483



Farmer input support programs (FISPs) have been implemented in sub‐Saharan Africa since the 1970s. FISPs aim to improve agriculture productivity and production. Whether FISPs are effective engenders immense debates in the region. This paper assesses if FISPs can reduce gendered productivity gaps in agriculture, which in theory, they should by improving access to productive inputs for all farmers.


Because FISPs improve access to productive inputs for both males and females, this paper asks if subsidy programs can reduce the gendered productivity gaps in agriculture. We assess the direct impacts of accessing FISP on maize productivity and whether these impacts are heterogeneous between female‐ and male‐managed plots.

Approach and methods

We combine the control function and the correlated random approaches to control for the endogeneity of access to FISP and unobserved heterogeneity, and use the two‐wave panel of the Rural Agricultural Livelihoods Survey data collected in 2012 and 2015 in Zambia. The analysis is done at plot level.


Access to FISP does not disproportionately raise maize productivity for female‐managed plots. This implies that FISP alone is insufficient to address the gendered productivity gaps in agriculture. On average, FISP was associated with average yield gains between 35 and 105 kg/ha in our sample, with larger gains for male manager subsamples. However, fertilizer use at these low rates of return is unlikely to be profitable for smallholder farmers.

Policy implications

Given that FISPs will likely remain an important part of agricultural development policies in the region, there are reasons to believe that FISPs may have a role to play in reducing gender gaps. However, reducing gendered productivity gaps in agriculture requires that other non‐input factors that constrain women’s access to productive resources such as insecure land tenure and factors that limit the responsiveness of soils to fertilizer use among smallholder farmers are addressed concomitantly.

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